“I’m My Own Contractor” Club

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” my husband said when I surveyed our apartment last week once the renovations REALLY got underway. We have been living with paper on our floors for the last two months after the flood, waiting for insurance money and our floors to be delivered. They’re finally installing them next week. But first, we needed to rip out the rest of the kitchen cabinets.

After interviewing seven contractors, all of whom sucked, we decided we would be our own contractors. They don’t do any work anyway, they hire the people who do the work: the plumber, the electrician, the floor layer. Once I realized a contractor was the builder’s version of my old advertising job, an account manager, I realized I was the perfect fit for the job. Plus our insurance was nickel and diming us, refusing to pay what the contractors estimated.

Way before Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother made it a catchphrase, I walked through life with the motto, “Challenge Accepted.” I’m one of those annoying people who think, “I can do that” to more things than I actually can – kitchen renovation, notwithstanding. I’ll add the caveat that my dad, a can-do-it-all handyman, would help us, or rather, lead us through it.

Today was demolition day. I was looking forward to it as a way to take out some aggression physically and also because I love to feel like I’m proactively doing something about our situation; a dismantled house in this instance.

We collected tools from my father, scheduled 1-800-GOT-JUNK for the next day, and got to work. Our first order of business was to shut the water off under the kitchen sink. As we began, the scene felt eerily familiar, deja vu almost and I remember this happened before: in the bathroom renovation a few months ago! The valve was rusted shut. My husband went off to find the super, who returned to tell us not only can he NOT help us, but this kind of work requires a building permit. UNLESS, of course, we agree to use their guy Eddie, who already has a permit out to do these valve replacements in the building. Eddie was one of the contractors we interviewed, who was all too eager to do our project until he never got us an estimate or followed up. We rolled our eyes and felt trapped, but Eddie could do it tomorrow and it would get us out of having to deal with the city. So much for planning.

Tearing down the cabinets was next, which went exactly according to plan, if our plan was to have all five upper wooden cabinets come crashing down on my husband, and him reaching up and catching them like Superman.

The day went on just like we predicted: everything was harder than we thought it would be – and yet we finished the day accomplishing more than we imagined. We added in a bathroom renovation. (Of course, we did!) We ripped out a six-foot vanity attached to a full-wall mirror and this turned out to be our biggest feat! Minor pitfall: I dropped the counter with the sink attached and broke a plastic u-pipe. No biggy, though, because we had successfully shut off the water supply. Also, only five total band-aids used between the two of us.

Renovations suck; it’s a universal known – and yet a perfect metaphor for life. There are surprises behind every cabinet, under every piece of carpet, and inside every wall. There are screws forced in crookedly and others which are cemented in and there is glue where there shouldn’t be. We demolished what someone else built; replaced their dream with ours and it didn’t happen easily. Tiles shattered off the wall like bullets rather than gently fall off, cabinets rip parts off the wall, the wrong wire gets cut and you lose electricity in a few walls. So you run an extension cord to another wall to keep the refrigerator alive. 

6 thoughts on ““I’m My Own Contractor” Club

  1. Cool, it’s like those shows on HGTV where people do and/or help out with their own renovations and smash down all the cabinets. Do you at any point get to put a sledgehammer through a wall?

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